Impulse buys, fast fashion end up in landfills and stay intact for 200 years
- About 99% of what we buy ends up in the trashcan within the first six months.
- The fashion industry produces and sells somewhere between 80-150 billion garments a year globally.
- India was ranked at the bottom position of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2022, with 151st position in
AdvertisementDid you know that 99% of what we buy ends up in the trashcan within the first six months, which is the key reason why waste is piling up at an alarming rate on an annual basis. From the small plastic showpiece for your desk to the top you bought from the supermarket, most of the things one buys ends up polluting the environment in more ways than one.
Anurag Asati, co-founder of The Kabadiwala — a waste management company that has recycled over 1.8 crore kilograms of waste — told Business Insider India that old clothes along with multi-layer packaging (used for food and beverages), single-user plastic and styrofoam are difficult to collect and process. Therefore, they require a lot of effort and resources for proper waste management, which makes it an expensive affair.
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The waste ends up in the landfills if not managed properly
The fashion industry produces and sells somewhere between 80 billion and 150 billion garments a year globally (2020), which is roughly up to 21 articles per human being on this planet. About three in five of these clothing products end up in the incinerators or landfills within years of production.
According to the Waste Management Hierarchy — a scale that ranks waste management options by their environmental impact — landfills are the most harmful to our planet. Clothes do not biodegrade while in a landfill, and could remain there for more than 200 years before decomposing. This also increases the carbon footprint of the garments in the landfill.
Globally, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste is created each year, which is equivalent to one rubbish truck full of clothes ending up in landfill sites every second. By 2030, 134 million tonnes of textile waste is expected to be discarded each year.
The number stands at more than a million tonnes per year in India, and most of this comes from household sources. As per Indian Textile Journal, textile waste is also the third-largest source of municipal solid waste in India.
“Fast fashion encourages over consumption through marketing tactics and trend replication. This has evolved into a need for cheap clothing that comes at a cost of unfair wages to workers, synthetic clothing that leaches thousands of microplastics in the environment. This results in harmful impacts on the environment, garment workers, animals, and, ultimately, consumers’ wallets,” Monisha Narke, founder of RUR Greenlife, told Business Insider India.
Greenhouse gas emissions by the global textile industry are greater than those from shipping and international air travel combined.
AdvertisementLack of awareness, budget, financial viability and infrastructure are some other challenges that India’s waste management system is facing. According to the World Bank, effective waste management is expensive, often comprising 20-50% of municipal budgets.
India was ranked at the bottom position of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2022, with 151st position in waste management, 165th position in climate policy. The country also scored low on rule of law, control of corruption and government effectiveness.
Reusing, Repurposing or Upcycling is the only way ahead
Reusing, Repurposing or Upcycling waste items reduces the amount of waste reaching landfill and also reduces the demand for new products. This also reduces the carbon footprint of the garments in the landfill. However, the end product matters in this too.
“For eg. I cut a saree and stitch bags out of it – the bag can be used for years together. The same saree I put embellishments and motifs and stick it onto some plastic item using glue and make a décor item out of it. This item may probably be used for a few months and eventually be thrown away,” Narke added, highlighting that a bag would be a sustainable offering.
AdvertisementThe company diverts over 850 tonnes of bio waste into composting and over 900 tonnes of solid waste into recycling on an annual basis.
The alternative is to use sustainable fashion products, but even they come with a cost as the social aspects of these are being questioned.
“A lot of big brands are now talking about circular economy, give back your used stuff and you can get a discount on your next purchase. They are coming up with lines that say made from recycled or made from sustainable materials.. That change has not reached grass root level,” Vani Hans, consulting head at ESG consulting company Treeni.
Hans noted that the carbon footprint of an item is usually calculated through a life cycle assessment method, which takes into account the number of times the item was used for, the products that went into its creation, emissions during transformations and the end result of the article. A user can reduce carbon footprint by buying better quality products, if not sustainable, which will last them longer.
The users can also segregate solid waste at source, which makes collection easier.
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